Originally released on the PSP in November of 2009, Persona 3 Portable is an "enhanced" port of 2006's JRPG classic that makes a few controversial excisions to the core gameplay whilst also adding enough new content and combat improvements that we actually reckon it's the best version of Persona 3 overall. Controversial!
At this stage you likely need no introduction to the goings-on at Gekkoukan High, the school at which our protagonist enrols only to find themselves plagued by nightmares and attacked by shadows as the city of Iwatodai is plunged into eerie green chaos during the Dark Hour at the stroke of midnight every day. In time-honoured fashion, you soon discover your ability to wield powerful Personas and must delve into the bowels of Tartarus, the game's enormous dungeon, in order to fight shadows in turn-based combat.
Persona 3 was undoubtedly a turning point for Atlus' franchise, redirecting the tone away from the darker style of the first two entries towards the more colourful and cool atmosphere that's become the signature of the series since. More importantly, this was the game that introduced social interactions and a daily life cycle to the series, redefining what Persona was about and further separating it from Shin Megami Tensei, the post-apocalyptic RPG series from which it was originally spun.
Returning after all these years you may expect an experience that's aged badly, but it's remarkable how fresh it all still feels, and it's thanks to the changes made in this portable version that the core gameplay and narrative remain such a joy to get to grips with. Persona 3 Portable may have removed the beautiful anime cutscenes from the original game, alongside the ability to roam freely around environments, but its slick visual novel style, which sees you engage in static conversations with characters and hop around locations via a menu system, makes for an adventure that doesn't feel as old or as clunky for modern Persona fans to wrestle with as the game perhaps does in its original form.
This version also introduced the choice of a female protagonist to the mix, a change that shakes up social interactions more than it does the actual core narrative, and there are combat tweaks that make for a slicker experience once you're taking on shadows in Tartarus. Taking its cues from Persona 4, you can now swap between your party's characters in battle, there's a new defence command that allows you to limit damage rather than just wait for your next turn, and various co-op attacks and other tweaks - such as the ability to organise all party equipment from a single menu - that make for a more modern take on turn-based combat. Persona 3 Portable, for all that it removed from the original, just feels better to play from moment to moment than the 2006 version.
In terms of this new port, well, you've got all the expected upgrades, high resolution graphics locked at 60fps, a quick save system that can be utilised at any point during the action, and the ability to choose your difficulty right from the get-go. All told, it makes for the slickest version of this classic that we've played so far and, if you've yet to play it, we can't recommend it enough really.